Johannesburg - Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has admitted that he has a lot to think about before making his selection for Saturday’s second Absa Currie Cup match of the season against the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Newlands.
According to the supersport.com website, However, unlike at the corresponding stage of Vodacom Super Rugby earlier this year, Coetzee’s dilemmas are of the good variety, with his focus being not on where he is going to find players to front the challenge, but who to leave out.
As anticipated, big Rynhardt Elstadt was among the group that turned out for training at the HPC in Parow at the start of the build-up week, as were Scarra Ntubeni, Brok Harris, Kurt Coleman and Jaco Taute of the players who were forced to sit out the opening game against the EP Kings.
By the looks of things Taute, who was away on compassionate leave last week, will make his return from the bench, as will Coleman, who was the first choice flyhalf for the Stormers at the end of Super Rugby. Elstadt, a particularly welcome presence back in the WP mix for Coetzee, is also likely to play off the bench, with a decision to be made on whether Ntubeni should come straight back in or whether Stephan Coetzee should be entrusted with the No 2 jersey for this game.
Coetzee is obviously reluctant to change what was a winning recipe against the Kings, even though there were times in that game when he admits the timing was out and there is plenty to work on ahead of the Bulls game.
Demetri Catrakilis played well against the Kings, with his game management and place-kicking standing out on a difficult opening night of the competition, and it appears that for now he may have usurped Coleman, who was disappointing in the final Super Rugby defeat to the Sharks, as the preferred No 10.
“It’s healthy competition there. When Demetri got injured against the Lions in Super Rugby it was Kurt who came in and took his opportunity and he ended up playing throughout Super Rugby, and the same thing has happened now, with Kurt getting injured and Demetri taking his opportunity. I thought he played really well (against the Kings),” said Coetzee.
Taute’s return has given rise to speculation over where he will play his rugby in the Currie Cup, with Coetzee having already championed the cause for him lining up at No 12.
“We have Jean de Villiers and Damian de Allende missing so there is a potential weakness in the midfield and Jaco has played there before. He is a big player, the sort of player we need at inside centre to get the momentum up by taking the ball across the gainline,” said Coetzee.
Indeed, but that doesn’t look likely to happen this week as Coetzee was happy with the performance turned in by Michael van der Spuy in Port Elizabeth.
“Michael brings the left footed option that we miss now that Gio Aplon has left us. I thought he did well against the Kings.”
Taute was training among the reserves on Monday, so it looks as though Coetzee is going to take the path of minimal disruption, with Cheslin Kolbe being given an opportunity to continue at fullback. The Bulls always have a strong kicking game, which might make it imperative for WP to have some size and height at the back, but Coetzee is not concerned about that.
“I think the kicking aspect is more important when you play at altitude, where the ball flies further. It is not quite so critical at the coast,” he said.
Talking of size, Kobus van Wyk should be back on the wing against the Bulls. Although he wasn’t at training on Monday, Coetzee said he would be available for selection. Although a spectator at the training session, Willy Ambaka, recently recruited from Kenya, is out for a few weeks working on the rehabilitation of a knee injury.
Meanwhile it is the return of Elstadt after a long absence that appears to be particularly exciting Coetzee as his team builds towards the second game.
“We can’t expect him to be at his best just yet, but Rynhardt brings the physical presence that maybe we will lose with Eben Etzebeth going to the Boks. That physicality will be important against the Bulls.”
Although Elstadt’s best rugby for the Stormers has been when he has played lock, Coetzee said he would be looking at him mainly as a loose-forward at present. With Michael Rhodes, who can also play lock, doing well on the blindside flank against the Kings, that will probably mean that Elstadt will be confined to the bench for now.